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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

The Just Desserts for Foraging?

By Gordon Thorsby

On Memorial Day, Saturday, in 2015, wreaths were placed on graves of veterans from the Wars of 1812, Mexican, WWII, and for Confederates at the Old Presbyterian Church Graveyard by boy scouts in Lancaster, SC. “There was one lone grave of a soldier named Raysor… that also received a wreath,” reported by the Lancaster News and he was a Union soldier from the XX Corps of Sherman's Army of Georgia. Most Union soldiers from the Civil War had been re-interred in National Cemeteries (closest Florence National.) Willis Raysor had been overlooked.

In February, 1865, Kilpatrick’s cavalry was worn out and foraging for horses became a priority. Corporal Willis H. Rasor (Raysor) and several other troopers of Co. G, 3rd Kentucky Cavalry came foraging at the farmstead of John and Jennett Boyd of Lancaster County. The sight of yankee troopers was an unwelcome sight based on South Carolina's experiences thus far during their invasion and especially unwelcome for the eight children. The soldiers proceeded to take food, horses, cows, goats and everything else the army could possibly use and they could carry.

Rasor enlisted in Co. G 1861, and was an unusual man for the cavalry. He was 46 years old, 6’3”, “lean as a string bean,” with salt and pepper hair and soft hazel eyes. When the tall, figure of a yankee announced he was taking daughter Martha’s horse, she reacted quite negatively, but the family stood by and allowed the Union cavalrymen to continue their

looting. Martha recounted that “she said a prayer that they would not take her horse.”

When Rasor went to the stable and was in the act of bringing the horse out, the animal gave him a swift kick in the head that instantly killed the man. His comrades loaded Rasor in a wagon along with their loot and returned to their camp but not with Martha’s horse. Rasor was buried in the Presbyterian Church graveyard near the County Courthouse.

The moral of the story as retold by Martha's granddaughter, Elizabeth Tennant many times was:

“Never underestimate the power of prayer.”

There may be another morale:

"Never get close to the rear of a horse?"

Records indicate that Rasor (or Raysor) was killed on Feb 25, 1865. Rasor is buried in the Olde Presbyterian Church graveyard in Lancasrer, SC. It is also documented that Kilpatrick's Union cavalry encamped around the Olde Presbyterian Church on Feb. 27th, 1865, not far from the County Courthouse (today the Lancaster Historical Museum.) The cavalry stabled horses in the Old Presbyterian Church in downtown Lancaster.

The townspeople honor those that fought for the country every year. Willis H. Raysor was one of the casualties of the war and he rests beside Confederate Veterans that died during and after the Civil War.

Note: Rasor's wife and four children starting collecting a pension in 1868.


-The story was remembered in the 1950’s told by teacher, Elizabeth Tennant in Lancaster, SC to schoolchildren. It was something her grandmother experienced in the Civil War.

Sherman’s March Through the Carolinas, Barrett, John G, Univ. Of North Carolina Press, 1956.

Lancaster Press, June 3, 2015.

Lancaster Historical Museum, Lancaster, SC

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